Exclusive: Neil Lennon reveals secret recipe for recent turnaround
It doesnt rain but it pours. Just ask Neil Lennon. With a Fawlty Towers defence, a main striker struck by Covid and Wannaleave-itus, a common ailment amongst foreigners, he could almost feel the axe coming.
But despite the seemingly inevitable, his hooped heroes look to have turned things around, emphasised with a resounding four one away victory over a Motherwell team that might have held his career in their hands.
A stunned fanbase has been wondering all week just where exactly has this type of performance been hiding all season especially against their rivals, and more importantly can they keep it up?
Those of a nervous disposition fearfully hope a corner has been turned, the more relaxed feel sure it has been after seeing what they so passionately describe as ‘football the Celtic way’.
So was it a tactical masterstroke from the midfield battler turned main man or should the credit be given to the players? The post game press conference offered few answers but now having had time to reflect he opened up more on just what exactly has sparked his team into life, and the real answer has left fans of the club gobsmacked.
We caught up with the Celtic manager in The Crown Creighton bar on a busy afternoon due to it being pension day.
“ I usually play my cards close to my chest but on this one I feel credit must go where it’s due so I will spill the beans. It was the week before the cup final and we had no game so we were all off for the week. No point going in if there’s nothing to do. My wee lads first communion is coming up and I thought I would get his suit out of the way while I’ve time on my hands.
I went into the Tartan Store off Sauchiehall Street there and was discussing the traditional Lennon family pattern when I noticed the next customer staring at me. Assuming he was a Tim I stuck the right hand out to shake when all of a sudden he has me in the strongest headlock I’ve ever experienced and he walked me outside. I thought it was another Edinburgh special and got ready for the battering but he didnt release me, just walked straight into the pub across the street with me in tow and yelled ‘Two trays of beer, a clean table and eleven beer mats now!’
The lassie clearly knew who he was, for she fell on her knees, but I was still in the dark at that stage. The penny still hadnt dropped when the bar filled up with punters looking for his autograph and not mine, but I had a glimpse down when we were having a slash at the same time, of course I almost slapped myself for not immediately knowing who he really was.
Its not everyday you’re standing at the urinal next to big AweNaw” smiled the 47 year old Lurganman.
The infamous adult film actor is quite open about which team he follows, once telling reporters he just bled green and white, although unlike other famous compatriots James MacAvoy and Gerald Butler he maintains a low public persona which makes the encounter even more incredible.
We pushed Neil for more details of what exactly happened.
“He beat me in a five pint race, which meant I had to give him thirty minutes undivided attention, not the easiest thing when you are the Celtic manager in a East end bar and your mobile is ringing, but a bet is a bet.
I wont repeat word for word what was said but he grabbed the empty table and beer mats, me by the scruff, and proceeded to lay down the formation that would lie at the heart of our revival”
What happened next however may well go down in the Celtic Annals as one of the most inspired moves since Martin O’Neill demanded 5.75 million pounds to acquire a stocky blonde haired fellow Ulsterman from Leicester City sparking the love of a lifetime.
“ I decided if he could have that impact on me, and hes a formidable fella take my word for it, then the squad needed to hear it as well. They were drifting at the time, there was a few grumblings in the dressing room about leaving and doing better, and this despite the fact we were going for ten. The local lads couldn’t believe their attitude which lead to fight after fight, and of course being the manager the buck stops at your door.
I had nothing to lose by playing a wild card if you will, so I asked big AweNaw to go into the dressing room and speak with them. He said he would fit it in his schedule and to leave it with him. Little did I know he had watched the home Sparta Prague game from a corporate box with just his security, and of course like any of us he wasnae impressed.
As I gathered my thoughts in the press room toilet, he burst in, said ‘Stay out of it” before storming towards the dressing room. Big John and Strach’s were flung out and the door was locked.”
What happened next is now a matter of conjecture. Sources close to several players insist they themselves dont have the details to share, although leaked pictures of the scene post ‘row’ suggest it was more of a battle.
In grainy and brief footage viewed by this outlet three players are seen pouring water and waving towels above a prone Christopher Julienne, while a large group huddle in a corner witnessing Olivier Ncham and Odsonne Eduoard being chased in circles by a yelling figure, assumed online to be AweNaw but unverified by this outlet.
The Sun is reporting a friend of a player close to the action told them on condition of anonymity that the movie star had in effect “dissed them soo hard they had no choice but to defend themselves despite admiring him for what he’s done and all”
The Sun continues “Kris was about to step forward to defend the troops when Shane put a hand on his shoulder, looked down on him and said leave it to me.
They went nose to nose but after a flurry of fists he was out like a light. Kris emptied his bladder, and they all sat down and listened exactly like he was yelling at them to do”.
Its only been one game but many fans would tell you it was like watching a different team to what they had witnessed recently, despite the Par’s not being the strongest opposition.
Football has increasingly been turning to ‘guru’s’ as clubs seek to find any edge over their rivals in the high stakes high money world of the most popular (and richest) sport on the planet.
And of course celebrity stars are nothing new, a regular sight for elite teams not to mention the obvious boxing which almost has a sideshow of its own in announcing who exactly is in live attendance.
But direct intervention in first team affairs was always viewed as off limits whether famous or not, until now that is.
The Celtic manager confirmed that he and the entire playing staff voted to allow the mainland Europe based superstar access at all times to the camp.
“ He has been given the keys to the kingdom so to speak, which I feel will keep everybody on their toes around here. After the Motherwell game, which he jetted in for, he went in and gave the players a look. He didn’t need to say anything, but they all know he’s there watching and that’s enough to inspire.”
Theres more to the tale he tells us with a glint in his eye.
“ He had his man purse with him and said I could do with a shower myself, nodded towards the shower area where all the players were, said do you mind and sauntered on in.
Its generally a bit noisy over there, the players pointing and chanting ‘Wee’ Wee Jamsie or whatever, but as soon as he stepped in you could hear 23 jaws hit the floor.”
The players seem to have appreciated this refreshing approach the manager indicates.
“They still havent stopped talking about it to be honest. Ive even heard a few say they will tell the grandkids they showered with the great AweNaw.”
The Scotland born actor has not issued any public comment at this stage regarding his involvement with the side but a spokesperson for his bookings agency claimed off the record that he was advised against the extra work by his staff, but ultimately felt he could not stand idly by with so much at stake.
Rumours of a potential takeover bid and installing those he considers ‘true Celtic men and women’ to prime positions within the football club refuse to go away.
One publication recently polled fans and the new syndicate had almost universal approval.
This latest news will come as no surprise to those who knew him before fame though. Once an ordinary blogger, we contacted some of those who were fortunate to share a platform with the man tipped to take Angela Merkel’s position when she retires next year.
Jim the Tim “what a bloke. Only man I ever knew could eat two doner kebabs with everything on them in one sitting!“
Big Packy “Luv ya to bits bruv“
ATOB “He waffled shite, and men with big blog names,,,“
Mahe “He’s the lad’s lad, you know what I mean? First time I met him I was a bit starstruck and to help put me at ease he said ask me anything. I asked did he smoke after sex. He replied I dont know Ive never looked. A legend, pure and simple”.
Maggie Mc Gill “Call me“
CosyCornerBhoy “Hes what we called a Gigolo in my day. Keep away from Runaround Sue!“
Friesdorfer “Theres a CSC in Dundee named after him. He couldn’t walk down the street here.”
Oglach “On my stag the lads presented me with a signed AweNawNoArmeniaAnAllNoo Directors Cut and sure one night I threw a party and some bassa pocketed it. Still have the cover.”
BMCUWP “I’ve sat with Rod, and seen the attention he gets. But AweNaw is different level. Belfast Primark sold out of ladies undergarments when he visited. Subway in Japan has a sandwich named after him I heard. Foot long only of course. You’ll wanna keep your distance though, I had to move for all the thongs landing in my pint. Top bloke aye.”
It remains to be seen just quite how this celebrity intervention will tilt the balance in his teams quest for a historic tenth title in a row, however once bookmakers heard of his hands on involvement, odds were immediately slashed to evens.
They say the bookies are never wrong, but then it’s also been said giving one man so much is simply wrong.
Will two wrongs make a right? Only time will tell.
Gabriel MacKay, reporting from East Glasgow.